This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Compared to other states, Utahns think quite highly of corporations, but they have little faith in the media.
Only the good people in Wisconsin and Minnesota trust corporations more than Utahns. The Beehive state gave the business world a 73.4 percent approval rating. But the media has the confidence of only 41.4 percent of Utahns, the lowest in the nation. We won't lie, that is a bit of a bummer for us at The Salt Lake Tribune, but we'll soldier on.
The survey doesn't appear to define media, so respondents could have been thinking of entertainment companies as well as news outlets. (Forgive us for looking for a way out of that ranking). Also, we should probably point out that the media is largely run by corporations. (Does that help, Utahns?)
These stats come from a big annual survey conducted by the Corporation for National & Community Service that includes all kinds of questions on volunteering, church activity and public education.
On many questions, Utah landed right where you think it would. The state was tops in volunteering in 2014, because of the number of religious people who volunteer for their church. And Utahns go to church more frequently than residents in any other state. Utahns like public education, but not much more or less than any other state.
On corporations and the media, Utah was an outlier. But why?
We looked for a partisan trend. It seems reasonable that Republicans would trust the business world, while casting a skeptical eye at the media. And Utah is one of the nation's most conservative states. There was some correlation there, but the trend fell apart in places. As an example, New Mexico is liberal but distrusts the media, while Minnesota is not a Republican haven but it sure likes corporations.
Next we called business and journalism professors and many were stumped or hesitant to offer a theory. We persisted.
Natalie Gochnour, an associate dean at the University of Utah's business school, suggested that Utahns may trust corporations because many of Utah's biggest companies were home grown and active in the community, such as Zions Bank or Intermountain Healthcare.
Also, Utah's economy has been humming for the past year, far better than most states. It's possible that in good economic times people are more likely to give business a thumbs up.
On the media question, she thought maybe Utahns were reacting to negative coverage of the state, such as a recent report saying Utah is not friendly to women.
"If that's how some Utahns view the media, you can see why Utahns wouldn't like it," she said.
Utah's large Mormon population plays a role in many statistics, such as the state's low smoking rate and young marrying age.
We called Phil Barlow, a Mormon history scholar at Utah State University, to see if he thinks the Mormon effect was at play here. Most likely, he said.
He noted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a highly structured organization and its adherents are expected to respect its top-ranking leaders. This in turn, breeds trust in other hierarchical organizations. He also noted that a number of big companies have Mormon executives and that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney comes from the business world.
Barlow was a little more surprised about the media stat, but said it's likely that Mormons, as a proselytizing people, are more sensitive to news reports they feel paint their faith as odd or different.
Barlow also thought that Mormons may just balk at the conflict-driven model of news.
"Mormon culture is optimistic and constructive and cheerful. And Mormons are nice," he said. "They don't like cynics as a culture, and they don't like critical thinking, in the sense of criticism and negativity."
Barlow stressed that these are only theories and there is no definitive reason for these rankings or any sense of how entrenched these feelings are in the public. If you have any better ideas, please post them in the comments section.